The Left and Health Care Reform

Last Friday, I wrote an article for the main site questioning whether liberals would ultimately kill health care legislation  by demanding a more comprehensive bill that includes the creation of a new government-run plan, even if moderate Democrats insist on scaled back legislation. It’s a question I expect to keep returning to as the health care debate procedes.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post explored the same theme on the front page, and liberal health care journalist Jonathan Cohn, a strong proponent of a government-run plan, ruminated about whether that single aspect of health care legislation had become too important.

On Sunday, David Axelrod went on “Meet the Press” and said over and over again that he expected “a health care plan to pass” (empasis mine). While Obama supports a government plan, Axelrod still didn’t draw a line in the sand and say that Obama would only sign a bill that included a government plan. My sense of Obama is that if it came down to it, he would be willing to settle for pared down legislation so he could at least point to some sort of legislative accomplishment, as opposed to the political fallout of watching the whole effort go down in flames. That’s why he isn’t drawing any lines in the sand, because he doesn’t want to end up in a box like Bill Clinton did when he declared in his 1994 State of the Union speech that he would veto any health care bill that fell short of guaranteed coverage for every American. Yet even if Obama is willing to settle for less, he’ll have his work cut out for him explaining that approach to liberal activists.

Meanwhile, liberal columnists including Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne have written columns urging Obama to get tougher on the health care front.